Article first published as Israelis Heap Palestinian Heroism With Insults on Technorati.
While some Knesset members and leading Israeli journalists slammed the episode as a “disgrace”, others like right-wing M.K. Michal Ben-Ari retorted: “We can invite them to the ceremony when they bring (captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit home”.
Palestinian fire-fighting chief, General Ahmed Razik, told Ynet News that he did not know about security problems: "We don't know the reason why permits were not issued for the Palestinian firemen … I think there's a certain measure of negligence here”.
Meanwhile, Civil Administration officials claim they approved the firemen's request to enter Israel, and a simple “technical failure” caused the problem. Later General Razik insisted that the incident "would not prevent Palestinian fire fighters from continuing to offer aid in various disasters, whether they take place in Israel or elsewhere."
Ziv Lenchner of Ynet News wrote that the official explanation
“came too late, contributed nothing, and mostly did not take away anything from the sense of insult and disappointment felt by the people who deserved our gratitude. Even if it was indeed a mistake, it reflected indifference, clumsiness, and the conduct of a bull (and a stupid one at that) in the china shop of global public opinion
“… What is truly regrettable about Michal Ben-Ari’s comment is that his disturbing words reflect a patronising official attitude. Even after they volunteered and rushed here, putting their lives in danger in order to help us save lives, in our view they are first and foremost Arabs from the territories; or as we like to refer to them politely, illegal aliens”.
We Israelim are too often our own worst enemies. The Palestinian fire fighters working to end the blaze in the Carmel Forest should have been showered with rose petals at the Kotel (Western Wall) not barred from entering Israel via some bogus 'technicality’. If I were still living in the pre-Christmas world of the U.K. I'd be chuntering "Bah, humbug!" But how many people reading this will understand me?
Furthermore the incident occurred while fair-minded Israeli citizens were still reeling over the scandal of the Orthodox rabbis who warned against selling or renting properties to non-Jews.
Luckily, not all of them think alike. Neither do their counterparts in the Masorti Movement – which may be described as egalitarian, Conservative.
Rabbi David Golinkin, head of Masorti’s Halacha (Torah Legal) Committee, this week published an official ‘responsum’ (opinion) on the issue, stating that it is permissible to sell or rent homes to non-Jews – both Muslims and Christians - in the State of Israel.
However, Rabbi Golinkin added a timely warning in his conclusion:
”Finally, if we are concerned that certain areas of the country such as the Galilee need more Jews, we must achieve that by Zionist education, not by discrimination.
“If there is concern that blocks of apartments are being bought up by Iran and Saudi Arabia, then the government of Israel must deal with this national problem”.
This means that the civic and political authorities in Galilean cities like Karmiel must tell their citizens the truth – and not treat us like children:
Should the sale or rental of properties to certain people be a potential security risk – even of terrorism - then they have a valid point. But they should state this loud and clear.
The onus would then be on local corporate landlords and private individuals to investigate the backgrounds of potential tenants and buyers with the greatest possible care. If properties then get into the wrong hands we will have only ourselves to blame. This caveat, however, should not be seen as another racists’ charter.